Signs of a Tooth Cavity: Key Signs You Shouldn’t Ignore
Cavities are the leading cause of tooth loss in New Zealand. Children, young adults and elderly adults are most at risk of getting cavities, even though they are preventable. Dental checkups are one of the best ways to keep your teeth cavity-free. Regular visits to your dentist can prevent plaque from building up and eroding tooth enamel.
What is a tooth cavity?
Cavities are caused by plaque, that sticky white film that coats teeth after a meal. Usually, brushing and flossing get rid of plaque. But when sugar and starch are left behind in the mouth, bacteria feed on them, forming plaque and producing acids that erode tooth enamel and create tiny holes in our teeth.
Once you have a cavity, bacteria will continue to eat away at the structure of your tooth until the decay is removed and the hole is filled in. Left untreated for too long, tooth decay can erode the whole tooth until it is pulled out or falls out on its own.
Cavities and the decay they cause can lead to all sorts of problems like severe toothache, tooth abscesses or infections. Some teeth are more prone to cavities than others. When brushing and flossing your teeth, take extra care of these areas:
Molars. Molars are larger and have more surface area than the rest of our teeth. They also have grooves and crevices, making it easier for food and debris to build up.
Between teeth. It’s impossible to remove plaque between your teeth just by brushing them. Flossing once a day will remove food and plaque from your mouth and prevent tooth decay.
Gumline. Plaque can build up between your teeth and gums. Make sure you brush along the gum line when you brush your teeth.
Behind the teeth. Don’t forget to brush the back of your teeth. Use a flicking motion to move your bristles from the gums to the top of your teeth.
Signs you could have a tooth cavity
Many cavities don’t cause any pain or symptoms, especially early on. The symptoms associated with a cavity often only appear once tooth decay has set in. Keep a look out for these symptoms:
You haven’t been to the dentist in a while
If you haven’t been to the dentist in over a year, you could have a cavity and not know it. Regular dental checkups mean your dentist will pick up on early signs of tooth decay and help prevent cavities from forming or worsening.
Your teeth are sensitive to temperature
Sensitivity from hot or cold drinks or foods could be a sign that you have a tooth cavity. Our tooth enamel protects the sensitive inner layer of our teeth, called the dentin.
Once a cavity has caused a hole in the enamel, hot, cold or acidic foods can stimulate the nerves and tissue in the dentin. It can be hard to tell the difference between sensitive teeth and the symptoms of a cavity. Sensitivity caused by a hole is usually specific to a single tooth, while general tooth sensitivity may affect several or all of your teeth.
Sensitivity to sugar
Eating a diet high in sugar can increase your risk of tooth decay. When we eat sugar, the bacteria in our mouth produce acids to break it down. This acid can also attack the surface of our teeth and erode the enamel. With less enamel on our teeth, eating sugar might leave you with a sharp, lingering discomfort.
Tooth pain is one of the most common signs of a tooth cavity. Ongoing toothache, pain or pressure when you bite down on food, or sudden toothache could be a sign of tooth decay. Any tooth pain that won’t go away is reason enough to see your dentist.
A visible hole in your tooth
A cavity is a hole in the enamel of a tooth. If you notice a hole in your tooth, it’s important to get it checked out by a dentist. Tooth enamel can’t repair itself, and you’ll need a filling to prevent bacteria from causing further decay.
White spots or stains on a tooth can indicate tooth decay. The stain can become darker as more of the tooth decays. If you notice brown, black or white stains on the surface of a tooth, make sure you get it checked by a dentist.
If you think you have a cavity or haven’t been to the dentist in a while, book an appointment at Gentle Dental. Our dental practices are judgment-free zones. Our friendly dentists will give you a complete mouth examination and can treat any signs of tooth decay before it becomes a bigger problem. Book Now.